Le divorce (2003) Poster

(2003)

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8/10
Better than the general opinion allows
Tom White29 October 2008
I keep trying to figure out why this movie is rated so low. I thought it was very good, and that was before I started reading the book -- well more than halfway through, I think it's a faithful adaptation that delivers the storyline and the theme of the novel very well. I tend now to read the novel a movie is based on after I've seen the film, since my experience has taught me that doing the reverse always leads to disappointment in the movie. This was not an error with this title. I think all the casting, all the acting, and especially the direction, were well done.

It seems to me that somehow viewers were expecting too much from the movie. My philosophy is that expectations are arranged disappointments, and I try not to expect anything going in. I do admit that I had some doubts when it seemed that Merchant-Ivory were doing what looked like a light comedy, but there is much more to the book and film than that, first of all, and secondly, why should accomplished filmmakers not move around the genres? Look at Kubrick and The Archers, just to name two, who did so and did it successfully. I wonder how many people went in expecting "Howards End" and thus were disappointed, not in the film but by their own expectations. It's not fair to the filmmakers. Expecting "Le Divorce" to be on par with "Howards End" was like expecting "Howards End" to have the same effect as "Shakespeare Wallah" -- two completely different experiences. It's entirely possible, in fact, that Merchant-Ivory might not have done as good a job on "Le Divorce" had they not made "Howards End" first. It's a matter of process. My point being, that each film must be judged on its own merits.

I've read a couple of comments and message board posts that complain about how the movie makes French people look -- arrogant, garrulous, etc. I think that's overstating a generalization. The movie makes THESE PARTICULAR French people look arrogant and garrulous, because they are -- and devious and self-centered and boorish. But to leap to the conclusion that the movie is making a statement about all French people is patently ridiculous. "The views expressed by the characters in this movie are entirely their own".

On the other hand, one has to remember that Diane Johnson, who wrote the book and a number of books about the culture since, spends half her time in France. She does't take her subjects lightly; she's an intelligent, thoughtful, and though-provoking writer, and I would urge the people who find the movie too subjective to go to its source and read the book. They will find that the book is written from the point of view of one person, and is about the relations between two families -- not two complete cultures. Just because people say something about a culture does't make it true. Perception itself is subjective. In the book (I can't recall if this occurs in the film, I'll have to see it again) Uncle Edgar, perhaps the most sensible character, himself speaks those words that send a shiver of annoyance up my spine: "You Americans. You think..." As if we all think the same thing (and we all know THAT isn't true!). It shows that subjectivity is a common human trait, that we look at the world with our own particular set of blinders, filter our thought through our cultural stance, although I think that perhaps French thought is more synthesized and common than American thought which is, by nature of the population, more diverse.

In the end I think that the book and the film are VERY objective, and let us look at our own judgmental selves and see how the judgmental and subjective nature of our thought and attitude can be damaging and inhibiting. I think that's the theme, and it comes across very well.
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7/10
A genuine Georges De la Tour painting!
jotix1006 February 2006
It's amusing to read some of the comments in this page of IMDb. Most postings place the blame for what they perceive as the failure of this picture on James Ivory, Ismael Merchant and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, the successful creative team of some of the best movies of recent years. In fact, the sin they appear to have committed was to adapt the Diane Johnson's novel about the contrasts she has always written about between two cultures that should be more similar: the French and American, yet, as we read in the book, and now watched in the film, they are not as close as one would imagine.

First, the French one sees portrayed in the film belong to the high classes that are imbued in their traditions, savoir faire, their sense of style and being B.C.B.G., something the Americans, being somehow a new society without those traditions cannot comprehend. Money is a taboo subject to be spoken at all by the wealthy French, whereas in America the flaunting of having made fortunes and having millions is an everyday subject for the higher ups.

Ms. Johnson, who has lived in France for quite some time, is an observant of that society. In her many books about life in that country, the study in the contrasts she sees, are at center stage and the mixing of Americans with the French bourgeoisie produces surprising results that make the reading of her novels more compelling for the joy they bring to her readers.

Isabel, the young American, arriving to stay with her sister Roxanne, takes easily to the new surroundings. In doing so, she completely disregards the established rules when she enters in a liaison with Marc-Henri, who sees the occasion as one for amusing himself for a while. Roxanne, on the other hand, soon discovers what she is against when her French husband decides to ask her for a divorce. Little has prepared her for the consequences that go with it and the archaic laws about a couple's separation in that country, which benefits the husband while punishing the wife.

The other theme at the core of the story is a painting Roxanne has brought with her from San Diego. The possibility of it being a real Delacroix is now at the center of the divorce settlement. Where one can see it has nothing to do with the cheating husband, Suzanne, the mother-in-law deems otherwise because of the possible value the painting will fetch when it's sold.

Naomi Watts makes another great contribution in her appearance as Roxanne. Kate Hudson is not in the same league, although her good looks and natural charm makes one care more for her Isabel. The delicious Leslie Caron plays Madame de Persand with great panache. Just watching her remarking about the granulated sugar Charlotte offers her to sweeten her tea is one of the delights of the film. Tierry Lhermitte is seen as the callous Edgar. Glenn Close plays Olivia Pace, a writer,who might be Diane Johnson's alter ego in the story. Stephen Fry, Stockard Channing, Sam Waterston, and the rest of the French and American cast do a good job.

This film has a feeling of being more French than some French movies. The cinematography of Pierre Lhomme is wonderful as he takes his camera all over the city showing us what a treat it is to be in Paris, even for a visit. The other thing that comes across is the involvement of the late Ismail Marchant to the production. Mr. Merchant got great locales in where to film and had a great eye for the style of the pictures he was producing. His absence, alas, is sadly missed from the latest James Ivory project "The White Countess".

In spite of not being up to some of his best movies, James Ivory still shows he has a keen eye for presenting the material on the screen.
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8/10
generalities, truth, and a few near-misses
wickest11 August 2006
After viewing the unfortunate "Golden Bowl" (also by James Ivory) the day before, an exposure to "Le Divorce" was certainly a refreshing sip of champagne. This may be the first James Ivory movie I've seen where I forgot to look at the sets (unlike Ivory's other French venture, "Jefferson in Paris"). This is mostly due to the depth of certain actors and the fact that this time Ivory decides to close in on them rather than frame them. When the book came out, as an American living in Paris for 30 years, I avoided reading another set of American observations on everything French that foreign residents here hate, and I can't say that the movie avoids the pitfalls of throwing around generalities. Yet this is kept to an astonishing minimum, perhaps because few of the main characters really consider themselves typical representatives of their native country. Instead of a plethora of reflections coming out of their mouths, "the French are like this, the Americans are like that," the viewer can actually draw his own conclusions about which country has the "nicest" people and the place of formality when it comes to private matters. After all, would the story have been that much different if it had dealt with class differences in New York City? The characters who do tend to generalize are perhaps the least involved in what is going on. They form the real "décor" of the film, rather than the wallpaper and polished furniture, although these elements certainly haven't been omitted.

I find it strange that the two most interesting actors are supposed to belong to the subplot, Kate Hudson and Thierry L'Hermitte. The latter is currently being wasted in his late middle age in French films, and, like Louis Jourdan in "Gigi," manages to bring a little subtle something extra to the most stereotyped part in the film. I'd like to see him extend what he has done here, if any producer or director can be bothered.

The film had such a short run in France that I missed seeing it in a movie theater, and it was dismissed by most French critics on its release like the way that some of the American characters are dismissed by their French counterparts in the film itself. It would be a shame to overlook this light but not lightweight effort, for it has a surprisingly natural charm and raises interesting questions about how much the culture that forms our conditioning influences our very humanity.
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7/10
Not THAT Bad!
Signet1 November 2004
The performances are terrific, Kate Hudson proves that she is the actress that Goldie Hawn never was, and it is always good to see Leslie Caron looking her age and looking great. Now, the matter of the plot has been raised and the consensus so far is that it is a bag of clichés dumped into a blender and then poured out on film.

True. But, the book was no great shakes either and the screenplay simply has not risen above its origins.

I enjoyed Le Divorce for its cynicism and its predictability, frankly. It is nice every now and then to see a movie that elicits a sour chuckle rather than a guffaw or a shriek, and this is one of them.
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7/10
The two sides of divorce – French style.
Roger Burke26 April 2008
Romantic dramas and comedies are not usually my thing, although I admit they can be interesting. Despite myself, I found I liked The Bridges of Madison County (1995), for example. So also with this one: a nice mixture of irony, wry humour, and culture clash (American vs French) all topped off with some murder and financial skullduggery.

There's a large cast of characters, but I'll confine most of my comments to the four main players: Kate Hudson as Isabel Walker, Naomi Watts as her sister, Roxeanne, married to Charles-Henri played by Melvil Poupaud and Isabel's aging lover, Edgar Cosset, played with exquisite panache by Theirry Lhermitte.

The story begins as Charles-Henri is leaving Roxeanne (and his daughter) for another woman, Magda (Rona Hartner), just as Isabel is arriving, from USA, to assist Roxeanne. Essentially, Charles-Henri wants a divorce, but Roxeanne refuses. And for much of the resulting interaction between the couple, that impasse remains. In the meantime, Isabel settles in with Roxeanne and, through the family connections meets Edgar (who is Charles-Henri's uncle) and agrees to become his lover.

The divorce battle gets worse as Roxeanne discovers the inequalities that exist in French law regarding marriage settlements. Relationships sour even more between the two, and now compounded by the growing dispute about a La Tour painting owned by Roxeanne's family but which Charles-Henri now half-claims as part of any divorce settlement. Further drama ensues when Tellman (Mathew Modine) shows up, ranting to Roxeanne about Charles-Henri's seduction of Magda, Tellman's wife.

And, in and out of that mess, Isabel becomes more involved with Edgar, much to the annoyance of Edgar's family – but, trust the French to be very civilized about Edgar's affairs – and the arrival of Roxeanne's parents and brother (Sam Waterston, Stockard Channing and Thomas Lennon, respectively) who have come to support Roxeanne during her difficult time – and, just quietly, to help torpedo Charles-Henri's grab for the La Tour art piece, now valued at multi-millions.

The resolution of all these affairs is competently contrived with many scene changes as the plot interweaves between the two couples, one seeking divorce, the other eventually seeking a divorce of a different kind: as Edgar says to Isabel, finally: "I'm too old for you." And, through the latter half of the story, the American and French families intermingle, giving rise to some delicious moments of that humour and irony already mentioned.

The denouement is predictable, but still enjoyable, and marred only by Mathew Modine's somewhat overacted deranged husband; still, his intervention is instrumental and provides the only real suspenseful moments in an otherwise conventional divorce story. The use of Glenn Close, playing Olivia Pace, as a quasi-mentor for Isabel assists with the story development with Edgar and adds some further touches of irony; however, it added little to the story, as a whole.

As you might expect from an Ivory production, the cinematography, editing, and sound are top notch. And the script, although also somewhat predictable, still shows some moments of brilliance; the lunches and dinners with both families in situ were, for me, a real joy to savour. The acting, apart from Modine, is uniformly very good to excellent. This was the first time I'd seen Kate Hudson on the screen and I think she did well opposite Lhermitte. Watts is always worth watching, as are Channing and Close. And, I was very pleasantly surprised to see Leslie Caron once again, as Edgar's mother.

However, with a lot of sub-titles, some people will be turned off from an otherwise English-speaking film, despite the French actors often lapsing into that language. Being a bit of a Francophile, however, I just found it all quite delightful.

There are some mild and brief sex scenes, and nothing offensive, even for adolescents. It's not a film, however, for those who like action/thrillers.
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5/10
Quirky mess, but far from "the worst movie ever made."
EThompsonUMD10 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Le Divorce (2003) is not by any stretch a very good movie. But is it - as a stunning number of IMDb subscribers have dubbed it - "the worst movie ever made"? Very far from it I'd say, but then I've seen a ton of real clunkers in over five decades of obsessive movie viewing. While Le Divorce has more than its fair share of implausible and languorous moments, I nevertheless managed to stay reasonably awake and entertained throughout.

The heavily negative response the film received from American reviewers and on this film site has perhaps less to do with the film's merits (or lack thereof) than with the misleading way it was marketed and to the casting of Kate Hudson in its lead role. Though limited in acting range, Ms. Hudson is blessed with her mother Goldie's winning smile and a screen-persona tailor-made for light comedy. In Le Divorce she seems to have stumbled into an alternate universe, and no doubt her many fans felt the same way upon viewing the film.

However it might be classified (and I'm not sure how that might be), Le Divorce is clearly NOT a romantic comedy geared to the tastes of teens and twenty-somethings. It's probably better not to think of it as a romantic comedy at all - at least not in the usual American sense of a boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets girl plot with a heavy admixture of screwball humor to keep the patrons amused. Quite to the contrary, Le Divorce includes scenes of attempted suicide, stalking, hostage taking, and murder. And these are not handled with humor - screwball, black, or any other form. They are staged with at times all too much seriousness.

Also, "the boy" in the romantic formula turns out to be a notorious 55 year old French sophisticate/philanderer named Edgar Cosset (Thierry Lhermitte) whose M.O. for the conduct of extra-marital affairs includes the gift of an expensive Hermes "Kelly bag" at the start of a relationship and a stylish scarf at its end. One of the running jokes in Le Divorce (admittedly not a belly-whopper) is that every woman in Paris seems to recognize Edgar's seduction methods and instruments except his latest flame, a visiting American ingénue, Isabel Walker (Hudson). Nor does the Edgar-Isabel plot have a happy ending in the manner of Gigi, a film referenced by Le Divorce through the casting of Leslie Caron in a well-done supporting role.

There is no reconciliation to be found in Le Divorce between American post-feminist romantic idealism and French double-standard patriarchy and sexual cynicism. These are two worlds that do not comprehend each other, and never the twain shall meet- well, hardly ever. The film's other romantic plot involving Isabel's older sister, the pregnant poet Roxanne (Naomi Watts) does provide us with a somewhat conventional romantic resolution, by uniting Roxanne not with her divorce-seeking, two-timing French husband (who ends up precipitously and conveniently dead) but with the sympathetic lawyer she hires to represent her in an increasingly ugly property battle with her in-laws. By the time this happens, however, "le divorce" has been relegated to the background, and "l'affaire" between Isabel and Edgar has moved to central prominence in the screenplay.

Naomi Watts is a great actress, but Le Divorce is clearly not her finest moment. Her role is by turns over-the-top dramatically (her poetry reading scene and subsequent suicide-attempt) and underwritten (she practically disappears in the last third of the film). The rest of Le Divorce's cast includes some very good actors like Glenn Close, Sam Waterston, Stockard Channing, Stephen Fry, Matthew Modine, and the aforementioned Leslie Caron. Other than Caron, the only one of these who is given much to do is Modine. And that turns out to be quite unfortunate since the mad betrayed-husband stalker/murderer he plays is a completely unmotivated and implausible character who bizarrely hijacks the film's final scenes for no apparent reason other than to make dramatic visual use of Le Tour Eiffel - after all, this is Paris, n'est pas?

If Le Divorce had been a low-budget ex-Sundance project with a cast of no-names, I think it might have garnered a more appreciative following. It is nothing if not quirky, and it does offer some piquant cross-cultural humor and jabs at the privileged world of the arts(y). The plot also keeps us guessing where it will turn next, but one does have to wonder whether the director wasn't equally in the dark about that.
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7/10
culture conflict film - not bad at all
dromasca4 September 2004
James Ivory is not exactly a politically orientated film maker, but it took some courage, and it was a politic message releasing a film about Americans living in Paris, and the culture clash between American and French in 2003. Although his film is more about family relations and cultural perception, it says a lot about humans being more important in the relations between two nations than their leaders politics.

Not that the relations in the film are that soft. I know quite well both American and French mentalities, and I appreciate the ironic mirror this film puts in the faces of the two peoples. There is certainly a certain dose of stereotype in the approach, but still the characters are well built, they act with logic most of the time, and some good acting from a bi-lingual team

helps a lot. Paris is still the best location to pick for a film ever. The plot is a little bit too long, and the end suffers from hollywooditis, but overall it is a satisfying cinema experience. I do not like the romantic genre too much, but it was better than I expected. 7 out of 10 on my personal scale.
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1/10
Merchant Ivory come up lame.
jbass9913 February 2005
Have not read the novel, but the movie itself is slush (not having read the novel I can't say whether to blame the author).

Supposedly, the story explores the values gulf between America and France, with sex the American taboo and money the French taboo. Sadly, the greatest taboo in this movie is common sense, which seems trapped at the midpoint between the two, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, several miles beneath the surface at the base of the mid-Atlantic rift.

Every time we think something that makes less sense couldn't happen, it does. Characters act stupidly or self-destructively, doing the kind of nasty or narcissistic things that would make them the villain of most any other putative comedy of manners, only to have their clueless behavior transcended (to the downside) in the very next scene.

The only real surprise in the film is that it was made by the same folks who gave us "A Room With A View" and its distinguished successors. Here, that body of work culminates in an anticlimactic thud, as if obscurity were the thing the production team had been seeking to perfect. (Thank goodness they have another film coming out soon.) Rather than engaging the audience, "Le Divorce" is so absurd that about halfway through, it joins the group of films that are so bad you watch to the end just to hoot at the screen.

Our antipathy to the characters is particularly amazing because there is not a bad performance. Most of the excellent cast is quite good, and I was very happy to see Leslie Caron looking so beautiful and healthy. One gets the feeling the actors chose the project because it was a Merchant Ivory film. The only betrayal we end up caring about is that their faith led them here.

The film looks great, yet the script makes us groan. Other than the sister in law and the young daughter of the divorce of the title, the characters are archetypes. The most distinctive personality belongs to a handbag, and the rest of them become so annoying they seem to deserve what they get. The genuine tragedies -- we see them coming two miles away, not just one -- don't carry much impact because these so clearly aren't real people.

"Le Divorce" was meant to be funny, but it plays out as a 90-minute Seinfeld stripped of comedy or plot. The only laughs come from the predictability and unbelievability of events, and the degree to which we don't care about anyone they happen to. Merchant Ivory have, and will, do a lot better than this.
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Huh?
LOCKWOOT6 December 2004
I think this could have been an interesting film. Instead, it shows the French as being close-minded, rude and arrogant with no concern about other people's feelings. The American sisters are annoying in their lack of backbone. Instead of standing up for themselves or each other, they simply lie down and let husbands, boyfriends and in-laws humiliate them. Their last name should be doormat. The scenery is both beautiful and breathtaking. The restaurant scenes gives us some insight on the French artfulness of food. Dining is not just a daily routine but an adventure of taste, color and texture. Even when insulting, the French language is a pleasure to hear. Sadly, the bad heavily outweighs the good in this movie.
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10/10
good movie
evago21 August 2003
There are a lot of comments here about people not liking this movie. I just saw it and I loved it. I think it's very subtle, though. It's more fun to watch if you have a prior understanding of, or at least introduction to, the French lifestyle. It's a great satire on both the French and American cultures and their nuanced differences. Naomi Watts was great in her role, and Kate Hudson was pretty good as well. I have to say I liked Leslie Caron as the French "mere" best though :) All said, I thought this was a wonderfully directed and somewhat quaint satire-comedy- drama. Another good work from Merchant and Ivory!
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1/10
What's the name of the movie again??
lipardom1 April 2004
Have you ever seen a movie wondering about where it is heading to? And worst than that, after you finished watching it , you still felt the same? If you know what I am talking about you do not want to see this movie and end up feeling like you wasted two hours of your life. The story goes nowhere because it tries to explain so many stories that at the end you feel that the movie has the wrong name. Despite all the stories it goes around are resolved at the end, it makes you feel you're watching a different movie from the one you started watching. The stories are linked in such a weak form that you would have preferred them to be completely separated. Not even recommended for a nothing-to-do-Sunday-afternoon.
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Fluffy! Delicious!
davebrok31 January 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Who would not like to watch cute young American women cavorting in France? Especially if they are upper-middle class and come from a sweet family of comfortable means? Are you yawning sleepily or sighing blissfully?

*** SPOILERS ***

Granted, Le Divorce is not for everyone, but I found watching this slow, beautiful piece one Friday night at home with my girlfriend a delightful way to cap a busy week. If you're looking for substance, whatever that is, this movie isn't. Hudson positively bounces and drifts between a strapping young Frenchman, clueless parents, a sister in crisis, and a charming 55-year old politician with the impunity of a child. The fact that we delve not too deeply into her character is more relief than disappointment. After all, her role is not about conflict or hard decisions but rather a grown-up version of the "OhMyGodIwenttoFranceandhadthetimeofmylife!" genre.

For all its entertainment value, the film comes off as shamefully anti-French. In this respect is reeks of snobbery and has almost nil cultural value. For a large chunk of time, the French men represent scathing attacks on an American's conception of marriage. If you can bring yourself to ignore this blemish, the film opens up like an amusing adventure to which you are not asked or required to get to close.
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4/10
It Could Have Been Good
Ralph Michael Stein13 February 2004
"Le Divorce" fails. Despite the beauty of the locales and the talent of the lead actors, the director couldn't decide if this is a Parisian comedy or an adult tale of marital discord gone horrifically askew.

The interaction between the two female leads is good-half-sisters and true soulmates. But their romantic and marital complications come too fast with too little depth and the film is on a train wreck in the making.

And suave, affluent, cheating Frenchmen are a stale staple of these movies. Nothing new or interesting here.

Too bad.

4/10.
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1/10
Isabel -- worse than Hitler?
jenifefa14 September 2005
The most distasteful aspect of this movie had to be Kate Hudson's character Isabel. Her sister Roxanne has just been abandoned by her cheating husband. Isabel can see the anguish that his adultery has caused her sister, who is so distraught she attempts suicide. Isabel appears to feel concern for her sister, but what does she do? She has an affair with her brother-in-law's married uncle. She flaunts the expensive handbag he gives her all over Paris. This girl's main purpose in life is to bat her lashes and smile insipidly at men. Any man -- even the cheating SOB who abandoned her pregnant sister! Even the crazy guy who's stalking and threatening her sister! She is a disturbingly shallow, self-centered hypocrite.

Other than that the movie is just pointless and boring. I felt nothing for the characters except pity for Roxanne and revulsion for everyone else.
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Divorce Is Not Sexy
Chrysanthepop2 April 2011
I've been looking forward to 'Le Divorce' for years. Despite the negative reviews and the silly trailer, it was something I didn't want to miss. After all, it's a Merchant Ivory movie that stars actors like Naomi Watts, Glenn Close, Stockard Channing, Romain Duris and Kate Hudson, so how bad could it be? Sadly, this is perhaps Merchant Ivory's weakest film.

'Le Divorce' contrasts between the French culture and the American. The said comparison is made between an upper class French family and a middle-class American family. Much 'use' is made of the stereotype Americans have of French people but there are also certain interesting differences made here (such as Roxanne's unfair divorce settlement and how her in-laws become obsessed with a painting she owns). Isabel has an affair with an older man, Roxanne's ex-uncle-in-law, and this is perceived as something common in France.

The overall story felt lacking in substance. It moves at a lethargic pace. The ending is very Hollywood.

Pierre L'homme's stunning cinematography gives us a nice view of France. Some of the dialogues are quite witty and charming. The actors do a fine job. Naomi Watts steals the show once again. She displays Roxanne's vulnerability, despair and strength with gusto. Kate Hudson pulls off Isabel with natural charm. Tierry L'hermitte, Gleen Close, Stockard Channing, Leslie Caron, Stephen Fry, Romain Duris and Sam Waterston provide great support.

Overall, 'Le Divorce' is not in the league of the gems created by the Ivory Merchant team. It has the performances working for it and the nice shots of France.
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7/10
Not that bad...
marvint20 April 2004
I'm amazed at how badly people are rating this movie. While it meanders and the plot seemed more than a bit contrived, and was nothing like I was expecting , it was *not* bad.

In general, the acting was more than adequate. Naomi Watts carried the film, and Glenn Close did an excellent jobs, too. But it would have been far better if the driving characters (of Poupand, Modine and Lhermitte in particular) hadn't been so poorly scripted. Hudson's character, too, was poorly done. Her character, the parents and even the brother had was such promise, but it went unfulfilled.

Rating: 7/10
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8/10
A snippet of a real life situation
rianstrong18 March 2005
This movie is the portrayal of a small segment of time in the lives of two families joined by the marriage of two respective members. This movie is not meant to contain a moral, its not meant to be educational, its not meant to be entertaining-in the American sense of the word-it is simply the story of a failing marriage with twists of deceit, philandering men, attention-starved women and the pride and reputation of families. The amalgamation of French and American cultures works well in the movie with times filled with tension and others that are more harmonious than any fromage/vin pairing. The acting in the movie is great overall.
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7/10
Not such a bad film at all
mark2-112 January 2005
A Merchant/Ivory/Ruth Prawer Jhabvala film is generally a good deal. And this one also has a rather good cast albeit many in very small roles.

I am surprised to read here how many viewers have disliked this film - many even with great vehemence. My wife and I found it a charming and at times mildly amusing "little" film about types of people we could recognize.

Many years ago I lived in Paris for two years. This was during the "reign" of DeGaulle. At that time there weren't many Frenchmen/women who spoke English at all. That is different today, as this film reflects. And the cultural shock this has entailed is also reflected in this film.

My own experience has given me a relaxed attitude towards the quirks of French culture. But this film educated and shocked me with it's revelations about the male chauvinist divorce laws and attitudes in France.

This is not great art, nor does it pretend to be, but it is a film well worth seeing. Through many very serious topics and events it illustrates how people can learn from their experiences and move on with their lives. And that even extremely serious setbacks can be amusing in retrospect.
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8/10
A gorgeous piece of film-making
janhus25 June 2006
I found it surprising that this film was not directed by a French director - it has a certain stylistic feel that is prevalent throughout the French film industry but non-French directors rarely capture. I found the illustrations of the subtle differences between French and American perspectives to be very well handled. For anyone who has lived outside their own country and been thrown into another culture, a great many of the observations and small "inside" jokes shine through. There is an obvious juxtaposition of the two families (one very "typical" American, the other more "old money" French) with the people in the middle (Naomi Watts' and Glenn Close's characters, who are from one "side" but live amongst the others) which is refreshingly handled. Some criticisms here point to a lack of action but this film is very much about style and impressions and less about racking up plot points. The only character that I felt lacked depth was that of Matthew Modine, who seems a bit one-dimensional - despite the huge role in the plot for which he is responsible.
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10/10
Fine Blend Of Physical Beauty And Panache
Warning: Spoilers
LE DIVORCE swept me off my feet. I had to fall in love with it.

Merchant Ivory's films are known, first, for their sophistication. Their prim-and-properness. Whether set in India, England, the US, France or the Caribbean, they have tried to present near-accurate representation of the place they are set in. Second, they are known for their beauty. If you are watching a Merchant Ivory film, you could be sure to have a copy of the National Geographic magazine in motion, unfolding in front of your eyes, on the big screen.

To say that LE DIVORCE is beautiful would be an understatement. It is Gorgeous. There is Paris, there is the beautiful French countryside, there is the legendary Hermes Kelly bag, there are scarves from Chanel, and there are Kate Hudson, Naomi Watts, Glenn Close, Bebe Neuwirth, Leslie Caron, Stockard Channing, Thierry Lhermitte, Jean-Marc Barr, Melvil Poupaud, Sam Watterson, Romain Duris and Stephen Fry. In the best clothes, looking their best even when they are supposed to be sad, photographed in some eye-catching houses, rooms, bookshops, restaurants, parks and the Eiffel Tower. You need something more beautiful? Then there are the moments. Just check these out.

A playful Kate Hudson at the Paris airport, who then coquettishly introduces her to the concierge (Catherine Sami) at Roxy's apartment. It is the same coquettishness with which she accepts to become Edgar's mistress. See her licking her fingers, sucking her thumb, removing the padding from her bra, shop for lingerie, grin seductively at one and all, observe very wide-eyed-ly the heated conversation between Roxy and Charles-Henri's mother. Then there is Naomi Watts as Roxy, the good, grounded sister. She reads poems with all the passion, advises her sister on why she should not receive expensive gifts from men, fights for her marriage, opposing divorce "on principle". The supporting characters are equally interesting. The wise author Olivia Pace, played by Glenn Close, who has a strong opinion about French women, right up to their fascination for scarves. Uncle Edgar played by the handsome Thierry Lhermitte; the boyish Melvil Poupaud as Charles-Henri; Sam Waterson, Stockard Channing and Leslie Caron looking every bit the harried parents; Jean-Marc Barr as the handsome divorce lawyer, Bertram; and the beautiful Bebe Neuwirth as Julia, the woman from Getty's.

The very appropriately selected cast is helped by the incidents, something this film is all about. You have Paris, its restaurants, pubs, boutiques and the Eiffel Tower. You have the characters having some great time at those places and talking some very nice things. Like, Edgar and Isabel's secret meetings, and Edgar telling Isabel to prepare a drink of mint and orange and something to perfume the juices and Isabel actually trying that stuff; Isabel and Yves (Romain Duris) discussing the cultural impact America has on France with Yves telling her that some people in France actually want to drink Coke and draw Donald Duck on everything; Rhys telling Isabel that at a jail in France the inmates' uniforms are designed by Yves Saint Laurent; Isabel smiling mischievously at Charles-Henri's imbecile-looking girlfriend Magda while Charles-Henri fumbles with "certainty" and "certitude" while describing what he came at after meeting Magda; Margeeve's (Stockard Channing) "like mothers, like friends" conversation with Mrs. de Persaund (Leslie Caron) and Aunt Amelie; Margeeve's looking up terms in her French handbook; Margeeve's "not on Chester's salary" comment on the Kelly bag; Olivia's conversations with Edgar—at the bookshop "Are you still giving Kelly bags?" "Do you still have yours?", and at the Chanel boutique "are we buying gifts for the same person?"; Janely's (Stephen Fry) "only the French could serve boiled eggs with such effrontery" comment; Julia (Bebe Neuwirth) being asked "Has your saint been fasting?"; and Bertram paying the tip after the Walkers have left the restaurant. There are many such moments in LE DIVORCE, I can't remember all of them, but these are the things that make LE DIVORCE a must-watch. There's not one actor who stands out because everyone stands out. Each one is like the best.

LE DIVORCE is a quintessential Merchant-Ivory film. Look-wise, manner-wise. Sets and characters have always played and important role in Merchant Ivory's films. Remember, 'The Europeans', 'Shakespeare Wallah', 'The Householder', 'Howards End', 'The Remains of the Day', and 'A Room with a View'. LE DIVORCE has been made with the same hard work that has gone into the making of each of these masterpieces. And I have always admired Ismail Merchant and James Ivory. And Ruth. There could be no one like her. A Booker winner, then an Oscar winner. LE DIVORCE, after 'The Householder', 'Shakespeare Wallah', and 'Howards End', is one of the best from this trio. Beautiful, civilized cinema. Perfect Ten.
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I'm In the Minority...
jenaphile26 June 2004
...because I LOVED this movie. I read the other reviews and I'm astounded. I think this is a great movie. I received the DVD for free, and was so pleasantly surprised by the acting, the scenery, the humor, the exaggerated French snobbishness. I thought Kate Hudson glowed, carrying most of the movie. I loved the lingerie store scene, where the French women giggled over Isabel being "le petite" when she showed them her chest. I loved how Naomi Watt's character was perpetually scowling until she met the handsome divorce lawyer, and visibly fell in love at first sight. Glenn Close was wonderful as the graceful, well-aged American writer, clearly bitter about her being dumped by Edgar, but over-compensating with sarcasm. I loved the scene in the police car, where they were going to investigate a murder, and got side-tracked by the police women's perfume. There are so many wonderful nuances that make this movie great, I don't even care that the plot was muddled and non-existent. It's visually wonderful to watch, and the acting is superb. It's the kind of movie girls like to watch on a weekend, doing their nails, just relaxing. It moves slow, but it's additive and I've watched it more than I'll admit...
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3/10
Very bad
AliquaSalix12 June 2005
"Le Divorce" shocked me. As a French woman and Parisian I felt insulted by it and really wondered what was in James Ivory's mind when he made it.

Kate Hudson's and Naomi Watts' characters seem to be attracted by French rude and worthless men, but as far as I know, not all French men are rude and worthless... Yes, we too have gentlemen around here, and marriage does mean something to some of them - just like anywhere in the western world. Oh, and, last but not least: 99% of the French _don't_ know what a Kelly Hermes bag is... I didn't before I saw "Le Divorce".

A few good points though: Naomi Watts is beautiful and so is the photography.
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3/10
Keep your expectations extremely low...
Maksimilijan Bogosavljeviæ26 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
...because that's the only way to get any enjoyment out of this thing.

Wow, what an unnecessary movie! Who exactly is the audience for this? Watching it I kept thinking about the fact there's absolutely no IN for the viewer. At least not for the one inhabiting planet Earth.

Story seems to take place in some kind of parallel universe - it contains not a single thing that either touched, moved, tickled or engaged me in the slightest. Pretty damn hard to have a romantic comedy with the characters who might as well have come from another galaxy.

Isabel (Kate Hudson), an American, comes to Paris to visit her 5-month pregnant sister Roxy (Naomi Watts). Her timing couldn't have been better since Roxy's French husband Charles-Henri (Melvil Poupaud) with whom she already has a small daughter leaves her for parts unknown. And all this out of the blue activity is happening precisely at the moment Isabel is getting out of a cab that took her in from the airport.

Roxy's obviously distraught. Her husband soon informs her that he desires a divorce and not only that - he wants the property divided too. Besides the fact she doesn't want to grant him a legal split which would effectively be his ticket to marrying his loony Russian mistress Magda (Rona Hartner) who also happens to be married to another American nutjob (played by Mathew Modine), situation is even further complicated by an unclear ownership of a valuable painting they would have to split in the event of a divorce. And if that's not enough, Isabel has fallen under a spell of an aging suave and oily Frenchman who, of course, is married, and just happens to be Charles-Henri's uncle.

So, for those still reading, her lover is also the brother of the mother of her sister's estranged husband. Yes, it's like a high brow Jerry Springer episode.

But even that potentially intriguing storyline falls horrendously flat.

The movie just stumbles from one contrived scene to another. After pretty much everything else bombed it plays up the joshingly debilitated international observational humour. First, French men and American women are paired up. Then, the French family (which seems to consist exclusively of territorial females and promiscuous males) is brought out. Then, we add a Russian free spirit, followed by an American family that flies into Paris. And finally, even a quirky British appraiser finds his place on this smorgasbord. Needless to say, all is served with a lot of dopey banter in form of lame one-liners that point out 'keenly observed' characteristics of each nation.

And believe it or not, they even manage to stick in an attempted suicide and a double murder.

Even on a personal level 'Le Divorce' fails to arouse. Whether it's Charles-Henri's well-off family with their nationalistically inspired pursuit of the painting that's obviously not theirs or Roxy's and Isabel's family whose general listlessness even after learning of the fact their pregnant daughter just tried to kill herself is simply baffling, the movie's characters and their motivations are very unconvincing.

By the end my retina was sore from how many times I rolled my eyes in dismissive bemusement throughout the 117 minutes of this latest James Ivory offering.
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Just another movie...
MLDinTN12 August 2004
you wonder why they ever spent money to make. It wasn't terrible, but not much happens. It didn't entertain me. Isabel goes to Paris to visit her pregnant sister, Roxanne. Upon arriving, she sees Roxanne's husband leaving her. So, she tries to cheer her sister up and has an affair with a married relative of the husband. He buys her an expensive purse and everyone knows they're hooking up. A side plot involves a painting that belongs to Roxanne's family. She doesn't want her husband to get it in the divorce. They decide to sell it and find out it's worth millions. So, now the 2 sisters have some money to start the new chapter in their lives.

I don't think it was a romance film and it sure wasn't funny. I would describe it as bland.

FINAL VERDICT: It may put you to sleep, so I wouldn't recommend it unless you are suffering from insomnia.
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8/10
It's In The (Kelly) Bag Thanks to Kate & Charming Cast
My niece and I found the film version of Diane Johnson's comedy of manners to be nice, sophisticated fun despite a heavy-handed subplot with Matthew Modine stalking his estranged wife, the catalyst for the title situation (the fact that Roxanne's husband would leave her for this annoying chipmunk of a woman shows that his taste is all in his mouth). It's kept generally buoyant and piquant, however, thanks to a great ensemble cast and a charming lead performance by Kate Hudson as American-abroad Isabel Walker. Having said that, we thought Stephen Fry and Thomas Lennon stole every scene they were in without even trying! The red Hermes "Kelly" handbag Isabel receives from her French sugar daddy gets my vote for Best Performance By An Inanimate Object in 2003, with Isabel's ever-changing hairstyles coming a close second! :-) Incidentally, making Edgar 50-ish instead of 70-ish as he was in the book was fine with me. Call me old-fashioned, but I think a 30-year age difference is potentially scandalous enough, thanks -- unless we're talking about Cary Grant circa CHARADE! :-)
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